Nossa! Lots of miracles this week! But I´ll start with the news.
The weather in São Paulo has returned to normal, being in the 80s, 90s, and above, with intense sun and occasional storms. Carnival is NEXT WEEK, meaning that all of the craziness that is Brazil will reach its climax for the year, until September, when they have their Independence Day, and can prepare for NATAL (CHRISTMAS!).
I got the acne medicine you sent (TWO MONTHS AGO), so go ahead and send the citricil and multivitamins. They´ll arrive when I need them! And Elder Paive and I really enjoyed the chocolate! Can you send vanilla slimfast? Here, they have a farmer´s market (it´s HUGE) one street over every Thursday. Four HUGE mangos for R$5 (or a little less than US$3). Fruit and egg slimfasts every morning sounds like a dream!
I´m still getting skinnier! I´m going to need to buy new clothes soon!
My shoes are dying slowly and painfully. I´ll keep you posted on the prognosis.
Elder Paiva and I are doing awesome! Every night, when we arrive in our house, we are dead tired from working so hard, walking so much! And our numbers are the highest they´ve ever been, except for those that rely solely on the agency of others (when our investigators decide they don´t want to come to church at all).
I made concrete last saturday! I feel like a true Brazilian! We hand-mixed huge piles of sand, stone, and cement, then carried it, in buckets, and spread it, making an awesome patio for a beloved recent convert family (whose son will leave for the São Paulo MTC in March). After the hard work, we ate hard (like Brazilians), and didn´t nap (like Missionaries).
Last week, we had a pizza party with our new Ward Mission Leader and his wife (both return missionaries), which was really awesome. Together with the sister missionaries and the ward missionaries and bishop, we are beginning to visit EVERY SINGLE ACTIVE OR INACTIVE MEMBER ON RECORD to ask for references, reactivate, and baptize everyone!
Feliz Aniversario, Rachel! 21 years old!
I start teaching English classes next Saturday!
We might get a THIRD companionship in our ward! Whoa!
I finished Helaman 11 today in personal study in the Book of Mormon... in PORTUGESE! I´m understanding more than 90%, which is about average for reading scriptures in English!
I found the thing that I hate the most (really it´s two things):
1. Pride (as in not forgiving others)
2. Breaking the Law of Chastity
So many of our members and pesquisadores have huge problems and issues because they don´t legally marry or stay faithful to their spouse, etc.! And that always leads to contention and more sin, which leads to grudes and pride and hard-hearted-ness and stiffneckedness! The Book of Mormon is a testament of how not living the law of Chastity and being prideful will tear a person, family, community, or nation, into pieces. Not keeping the commandments and not being Christ-like will only end in misery and destruction for everyone involved, even little children, whose parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents, or siblings, are meddling in sin. That´s a lesson we have to teach a lot, here, and that will continue to be more and more important as the world continues to grow wicked.
A miracle: 18-year-old Vinicius, boyfriend of Jaiara, who was baptized not long ago (and whose family is being reactivated), told us yesterday in the street the following:
"I´m going to youth conference this weekend... And I´m going to get baptized before that."
It was hilarious, our jaws dropped and our eyes were super wide. Just the day before, he was acting super moly (like it wasn´t going anywhere), and i´ve been trying to teach him for at least a month. Here´s what happened to him:
He can´t sleep without brushing his teeth, first. One night, he couldn´t find his toothbrush and felt like he needed to pray. He resisted for a while, but then gave in and said a prayer. He found his toothbrush immediately. That night, he DREAMED OF GETTING BAPTIZED and he woke up and realized, "I NEED TO BE BAPTIZED!!!".
He will be baptized this coming week, and we´ll start teaching his family after that.
A little more about my companion, Elder Paiva. I´ve learned a lot from him, and from his example. He´s awesome. He was baptized at the age of 17 (he´s 21 now) and was always active in church, but, according to him, he was very unexcited about church, just participating, not actually being a part. This continued until he was 19, when he realized that he needed to serve a full-time mission. By this time, no one believed he could serve a mission, and no one, except for his bishop, helped or supported him. At the time, he was the only Mormon (and the youngest) in his family, and they weren´t too accepting of the missionaries.
So, Elder Pàiva began to work really hard toward a mission, doing every class and course to prepare him to receive the Melchezedek Priesthood, to go to the Temple, and to go on a mission, aquiring the essential financial aid from the church, giving up a successful and promising career as a soccer player (already semi-professional on a well-known team), and putting off his dreams of moving to the United States and finding a job working with computers, and even putting off impending marriage, to do what it takes to heed the call of the prophets.
He gave up everything to give two years of his life to the Lord.
Finally, he entered the São Paulo MTC and, after just 12 days, found himself in the favilas of inner-city São Paulo. And now, with just 7 months left in the mission, he´s my companion and district leader, teaching me all the things I need to do to be successful in the Lord´s work.
The greatest thing he´s taught me is about agency. I have the freedom to choose to be happy, to be excited and to work hard. He helped me overcome the last of the mental barriers and blocks that prevented me from putting my heart, might, mind, and strength into this glorious work. I´ve never been so happy. It´s all a choice. Elder Paiva is always happy because he chooses to be. His family hasn´t written him in more than two months, yet he chooses to be happy because 1) he´s doing what God wants him to do and 2) he knows his family will be blessed. From what he´s heard from his friends, two of his brothers have been baptized, and his parents are accepting the missionaries.
Brothers and sisters, family and friends, this work is true.
This Gospel is true.
God is our Heavenly Father and He loves us.
Jesus is the Christ, the Living Son of the Living God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the same church established by Christ, Himself, and is the only true church, the only one with the Priesthood.
The Book of Mormon is true.
Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God.
In the name of Jesus Christ,